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Information on this page is for Fall 2020 applicants. If you were admitted prior to Fall 2020 please click here to view information accurate to your curriculum.

Policy & Political Social Work

The Policy & Political Social Work pathway prepares students with social work practice, theory, and skills to identify and develop socially just policies and engage politically to create social change. Students in this pathway will learn the theories and principles behind socially just policies, develop methods and skills to analyze policy, understand how politics impacts the lives of those that they serve on both a micro and macro level, develop practice skills for advocating to policymakers, gain tools to empower clients to become politically engaged, and explore opportunities for running for public office.

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Examples of career (job) titles and positions relevant to this pathway include but are not limited to:

  • Campaign Advisor/Manager
  • Elected & Appointed Official/Politician
  • Legislative Aide
  • Lobbyist
  • Policy Advisor
  • Policy Advocate
  • Policy Analyst
  • Policy Strategist

Field Experience

Types of agencies and settings where students in this pathway may engage in field learning:

  • Engage in community and constituent services

  • Conduct policy research, writing, analysis, and evaluation

  • Participate in advocacy and lobbying

  • Connect political, economic, and social processes and their implication for policy development and implementation

Field Sites where Policy & Political Social Work students have recently completed relevant field placements, include:

  • Political Offices

  • Professional Associations

  • Advocacy Groups

  • Legal Offices or Organizations

  • Government Agencies

Program Details

Choose all 3 courses (9 credits)

  • Theories & Principles of Socially Just Policies, 3 credits

  • Methods for Socially Just Policy Analysis, 3 credits

  • Political Social Work, 3 credits

Choose 3 credits

  • Policy & Political Social Work Simulation Lab, 1 or 3 credits

  • Social Work Practice in the Era of Fake News, 1 credit

  • SW 741 Interdisciplinary Problem Solving (This course is offered through the Law School's Problem Solving Initiative)

  • Policies Affecting Children and Families, 1 credit

  • Integrated Health Policy, 1 credit

  • Policies Affecting Older Adults, 1 credit

  • Criminal Justice Policy, 1credit

  • Poverty, Inequality, & Anti-Poverty Policy in the US, 1 credit

  • Critical Discourse Analysis of Social Policy, 1 credit

    • Note: Students may also select policy courses from other schools, such as the Ford School of Public Policy, the School of Public Health, etc. This will be particularly helpful in the first few semesters of the new curriculum as it broadens policy course options for students.

  • Electives drawing from other pathways

    • Frameworks for Understanding Social Impact Organizations, 3 credits (Mngt and Leadership)

    • Fundraising and Grant Writing, 3 credits (Mngt and Leadership)

    • Budgeting and Fiscal Management, 1 credit (Mngt and Leadership)

    • Organizing for Social and Political Action, 3 credits (Community Change)

    • Participatory Facilitation, 1 credit (Community Change)

    • Community-Based Policy Advocacy, 1 credit (Community Change)

    • Environmental Justice Organizing, 1 credit (Community Change)

    • Gender-Based Violence: Community, System, and Policy Responses in the Global Context, 3 credits (Community Change) 

    • Qualitative Methodologies for Socially Just Inquiry, 3 credits (Program Evaluation)

    • Quantitative Methodologies for Socially Just Inquiry, 3 credits (Program Evaluation)

    • Data Visualization Applications, 3 credits (Program Evaluation)

    • Advanced Statistics, 3 credits (Program Evaluation)

    • Report Writing for Public Consumption, 1 credit (Program Evaluation)

    • GIS and Spatial Data, 1 credit (Program Evaluation)

    • Immigration, Social Justice, and the Practice of Social Work, 3 credits (Global)

Student Profile
Emily Hopkins

Emily Hopkins is a second-year master’s Social Policy and Political Social Work student with a focus on Children and Youth in Families. Originally from Albuquerque, NM, Emily received her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Texas Christian University in 2018. Emily chose to attend Michigan’s School of Social Work because she thought it would be challenging and help her grow both personally and professionally. She is passionate about serving others and giving voice to vulnerable populations, specifically children within the child welfare system. When not studying, Emily can usually be found putting the ‘social’ in social work, baking desserts for friends, or boxing. At Michigan, Emily discovered her passion for policy and political social work. Throughout her time in the program, Emily has had multiple opportunities to further develop her passions and career interests such as: attending Student Advocacy Day on the Hill in Washington D.C. and lobbying to Michigan Representatives; conducting research for a State Representative to support a proposed bill; working on a local political campaign as a Campaign Researcher and Communications Coordinator. After graduation, Emily hopes to work as a Legislative Aide for a few years before going to Law School. In the future, Emily hopes to become a Judge or a Prosecutor. 

Alumni Profile
Sarah Leder

Sarah Leder is a Presidential Management Fellow Finalist (PMF) and is currently applying to various federal agencies.  She earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan in December 2019. During her time in the MSW program, Sarah focused on policy and politics, earning a Certificate in Political Social Work. She interned with two different organizations. First, she worked with the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office’s Juvenile Lifer Unit. There, Sarah created Comprehensive Reentry Plans for clients who were receiving a new sentence. Additionally, she conducted mitigation and casework for individual clients. Her second field placement was with The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) in Washington, D.C. Working as a Research and Policy Graduate Intern, Sarah contributed to reports (e.g. An Analysis of Youth in the Adult System Charged with Violent Crimes) and attended community-based meetings with Baltimore-area organizations and in Maryland prisons. Sarah believes her time working in the federal government will further her ability to advocate with and for incarcerated individuals and promote criminal justice reform in the US.

Faculty Pathway Leads

  • Justin D. Hodge

    Justin D. Hodge


    Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Michigan School of Social Work

    Political social work, policy social work, social policy, voting rights, civic engagement, community organizing, community development, mental health, asset development, children’s savings accounts
  • Kristin S. Seefeldt

    Kristin S. Seefeldt

    PhD, MPP

    University of Michigan School of Social Work

    Poverty, economic well being, financial coping strategies, recession, recovery policies, work-life balance
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